The Doctor Is In

in Poetry

Dr. Wes

Adventures in Puttering

While we at Real Change are celebrating the first birthday of the current avatar of Tent City, we are also trying hard to understand why some people don't appreciate it as much as we do, so that we can be on the cutting edge of persuasion, as we change their minds, and so make the street papers in other cities jealous, and steal their women.

I mean, getting to the persuading part, the bottom line is, there aren't enough shelter beds, and affordable housing hasn't happened. Living together in tents is just the safest alternative to sleeping in doorways. Ya'll don't want people sleeping in doorways, right?

I know this is hard for some of you, so let me run that at you again. Raise your hands, everyone who wants the homeless who don't get into shelters to sleep in their own front doorway. Hmmm, I thought so. Next, hands from those of you who want them sleeping in your neighbor's doorway. Better. Now let's see hands for people who wants them to sleep isolated from each other in public parks. OK, not bad. Now how many hands do we have for them sleeping in tents somewhere together?

Hello? You in the back! It's the last alternative! You have to raise your hand sometime, because these people are going to sleep somewhere! You don't get to just sit on your hands like the problem will go away. People need to sleep!

Speaking of human needs, just before I sat down to write this masterpiece I noticed I was puttering. A lot of you will say I am still puttering even now as I type, especially those of you who know what the word means.

to putter, v, to busy or occupy oneself in a leisurely, casual, or ineffective manner.

Yes, I was puttering. And I noticed! And it occurred to me that I rarely notice when I have been puttering, I normally just putter about obliviously, but that in reality I must spend two-thirds of my waking life puttering, and have always done so, even when I was gainfully employed. Although of course we generally called it something else then.

We called it paper clip stuffing, or arranging our files, or fulfilling personal directives, or sorting priorities.

Suddenly I had an epiphany! I became aware, as I had never been aware before, of the extent to which puttering is a human need. I now realize that puttering is a need right up there with food and shelter and safety and moist towelettes. No, seriously, I realized that the need "to putter", in your Maslow hierarchy of needs, must precede all the noble sounding ones, like the need "to art" or the need "to science", or the need "to make lame jokes", or even the need "to mention moist towelettes repeatedly." Moist towelettes.

It explains so much. It explains for instance, why I am so fond of things that explain things. It explains why most men can't grow a beard, they trim it to death. It explains couch surfing. It explains cubicle art.

You know what I'm talking about. Cubicle art is the greatest contemporary American folk art form. Not Cubist Art. Cubicle art. You have a cubicle at work. You decorate it with stuff. That's it. All you get is the one cubicle. It's similar to hanging fuzzy dice in your car, only now it's a cubicle, not a car.

Or it could be a car, too. People still express their puttering need through their cars, even though cubicles have become the more popular medium. And what's the most popular medium of all?

The home, of course.

I have a dream. I dream of the day when every man, woman and child of this great nation of ours has at least a cubicle, or the equivalent, to putter in. I dream of the day when that puttering will be recognized, not only as leisurely, casual and ineffective but as the very stuff of life.

I dream of a day when people will be valued not for the size of their homes, or whether they have one or not, but for the puttering that they can do, when given the chance.

Moist towelettes!


© Dr. Wes Browning:
2129 Second Ave., Seattle, WA 98121 (206) 441-3247

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